Plenty of intriguing story lines ahead of CIAC Football title games
PLANTSVILLE - The countdown to the CIAC football state championship games officially got underway Wednesday afternoon at the Aqua Turf at the annual CIAC press conference and plenty of story lines emerged among this season's eight finalists.
Can Ansonia's senior class led by All-world running back Arkeel Newsome wrap up a stellar career with another state title? Darien needs a second win over New Canaan to capture a state title and stake it's claim to No. 1 or will the Rams avenge their Thanksgiving morning setback and win its ninth state title. In Class M Brookfield will look to slow down high-flying St. Joseph and Southington and Yale-bound quarterback Stephen Barmore need a win over Fairfield Prep to earn their first state title since 1998.
The overriding theme of the day was that all eight teams should be proud of their accomplishments and go out and leave it all on the field. It's tough getting to championship weekend and you need to look no further than the eight teams that will be playing for state titles.
Of the eight, only Ansonia was here last season, more on the Chargers in a bit. Only two other finalists from last season even made the playoffs (Hand, NFA) and both lost in the quarter finals. That means there will be at least three new champs this season and seven teams are heading to Arute Field at CCSU that were already on to basketball season this time last year.
Not Ansonia though and you can't really talk Connecticut championship football without mentioning the Valley powerhouse. This weekend will mark the 38th CIAC football championships and the Chargers are making their 27th appearance. Ansonia (14-0) is 18-8 in its championship game appearances and has won a title the last two years.
Ansonia's senior class is looking to put the finishing touches on one of the finest runs in state history as the Chargers last loss was the Class S state title game in 2010, a 49-28 setback to St. Joseph when the current senior class were freshmen.
"it's always the goal to get back here and it never gets old," Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said. "Our team has worked really, really hard to get to this point and I'm as excited as any coach here to be here and to have an opportunity to play for another state title."
To earn the 19th title in program history, Ansonia will have to knock off NVL rival Woodland. The Hawks, who have only been playing varsity football since 2002, are in their third state championship game and are gunning for title No. 3. Woodland captured the Class SS title in 2004 and 2005.
It's a tall order drawing Ansonia in a title game and Woodland knows very well what it's up against. The teams met on Nov. 20 in the NVL Championship game with the Chargers earning a 48-7 victory.
"It's a valley team and a valley game and we are excited that our league is so well represents and that we have earned a shot to play for a title," Woodland coach Tim Shea said. "Any time you earn a shot at Ansonia it means you've done something good and that it's a big game and we a excited to get a chance to play them in a big game."
In Class M, St. Joseph is back in a title game for the 13th time in school history and for the first time since it's win over Ansonia in 2010. When the Cadets get this far they usually win it all as they have not lost a state championship game since 1979 and have won their last 10 games on the big stage.
St. Joseph will face Brookfield out of the SouthWest Conference. The Bobcats are in their sixth final and last played for a title in 2008 when they beat Ledyard, 16-14 for the Class M title.
The Cadets (12-2) have only lost to New Canaan this season, including in the FCIAC championship game and hey own wins over Darien, Class L playoff team Ridgefield, Class L finalist Darien and Class LL finalist Fairfield Prep this season.
St. Joseph has rolled in the playoffs, scoring 146 points in two games, a fact that has definitely drawn the attention of the Bobcats and their coaching staff.
"We are wondering wether to cover the fade, the post or their three-point shooters," Brookfield coach Rich Angarano quipped during his speech Wednesday afternoon.
But jokes aside, Brookfield is going to grave to play stingy defense and run the ball effectively to win the game and both have been hallmarks of Angarano's team is season. Sophomore running back Bobby Drysdale is the main weapon for Brookfield and senior quarterback Brad Westmark can make plays with his legs and arm.
The Class L title game between FCIAC rivals Darien and New Canaan is another rematch from a regular season game as Darien shocked New Canaan, 28-24, on Thanksgiving morning to take the No. 1 seed from its rival.
New Canaan (13-1) considered one of the best teams in the state all season and part of an ongoing debate along with Ansonia as to who is No. 1, has won its two playoff games by a combined 63-0 and is in the state finals for the 13th time and looking for its ninth title.
Darien (12-1) is in its 12th final and first since 2008 when it lost the Class MM title game to New Canaan. The Blue Wave have won nine straight and are playing good football but also know a second win over New Canaan is a tall order.
"New Canaan is one of the best teams in the state, I know Ansonia might not want to hear that, but this is one of the best New Canaan teams ever and he has had some good ones," Darien coach Rob Trifone said.
Rams coach Lou Marinelli also knows his team is in for a battle but he also had a little fun with the praise from his rival.
"Don't believe a word he says about my team bei one of the best ever," Marinelli said. "He's just trying to make himself look good since he's trying to beat is again."
Another theme Wednesday was that the weekend weather outlook is spotty at best right now and some juggling may be needed as far as e schedule goes. CIAC by laws dictate that the games must be completed by Sunday or they won't be played and the game most likely to be affected is the Class LL title game between No. 4 Southington (11-1) and No. 7 Faifield Prep (11-2).
Sourhington is making its seventh finals appearance and playing for its second title while Prep is back in the finals for the first time since 1988 and for the fifth time overall.